Monday, December 30, 2013

Brain Goop

I feel like writing something. the same time, I don't.

I guess I will anyway.

You know, it wasn't too long ago that I made this blog. I thought that maybe I had some thoughts soaring around in my brain that other people might actually be interested in reading. I thought maybe I could write in a way that would, possibly, cause someone to see something they never had before. Maybe I could...I don't know...say something meaningful. Or whatever.

Maybe I was kidding myself. And maybe I still am.

I've never been a "popular" person. (I didn't expect to become so on this blog either, just so we're clear.) I've never had people falling over themselves to be my friend. In fact, I've never had more than about 3 or 4 friends at one time (and that's being generous with the word "friend").

And while I'm being honest...

I've never felt very important to anyone. (Except my Mommy.)

I would love to say that I'm very self-assured. I'd love to think that I have great self-esteem. I wish I could tell you that I don't have any insecurities. But if I did, I'd be a liar. And based on what I've written above, you wouldn't believe me anyway.

Truth is...

I am insecure in who I am. I crave acceptance and friendship and love. When someone is nice to me or compliments me, I question their motives. Or I think to myself, "Eh, they're just trying to be polite. They don't really mean it."

I used to be worse. When I was a teenager I had extremely low self-esteem to the point that I was convinced that I was ugly and that must be why no boys ever talked to me and why I had very few friends. It took a long time for me to get past that and actually find some things that I liked about myself. But I still struggle. I still fight to gain confidence in myself.

Don't get me wrong; I don't mean to sound as if I believe that having many friends makes you an important person, or that your self-worth comes from how many friends you have. That's not true at all. That's also not to say that the way people treat you doesn't affect or contribute to the image you perceive of yourself. That's definitely a contributing factor.
But it's hard not to care what people say or think about you. Especially people who are important figures in your life, such as a parent, sibling, teacher, pastor, etc. And I'm sure everyone has been careless with their words and has had rotten attitudes toward someone when they should have been more careful, needing to realize that they are very capable of hurting and/or damaging someone else.

I'm also not trying to blame other people for my lack of self-esteem, so I hope I haven't given that impression. I guess what it comes down to, the point I hope I'm getting across, is that, throughout my life I've experienced certain situations and come in contact with certain people (and still am) that have all contributed to the fact that I'm not as self-assured as I wish I was.

If there was one thing that I could say to people about it, I think it would be this: look around you. Look at the people nearest to you; people you are closest to and really, honestly, try your best to evaluate your treatment of them. How do you interact with them? How do you show them that you care and love them? Is it in a way that they can understand? You may not realize how important it is to someone to show them that they are important to you. You may think, "Well of course they know they're important to me!" Do they, though? Are you sure? Try to think of the things you do on a daily basis to let the people who are most important to you know that they are loved. If you just say it but don't actually do anything to follow it up, it doesn't count. It's empty. Meaningless. I know this sounds cliche, but, "Love is a verb."

Of course, there are some people who are so entirely insecure that no matter how much you try to show them that they are valued and loved and treasured, it doesn't seem to make a difference. They refuse to believe you and wallow in self-pity and stay stuck in that place until one day they finally find it within themselves and truly believe that they are valuable. Until they get to that point, it won't matter how many times you try. The important thing though, is that you do try. Your words and actions have more power than you may realize.                 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Series of Events Part 5

I find myself, more and more, reminiscing over past events. Some days I sit for hours at a time replaying conversations and other memories in my mind. At times it seems hard to grasp them, as if they are lost in a thick fog and I'm stumbling around trying to find them and pull them out.

But I remember this one clearly.

It was the day we were supposed to leave for our beach trip. I was the last one to be picked up. My anticipation had been building up all week and I'd gotten up early that morning to double check my bags, wanting to make sure I had everything.
I was watching by the window for Matt's jeep to pull into my driveway, and as soon as I saw it, I said goodbye to my parents, grabbed my bags, and headed out the door. I went straight around to the back and opened the hatch to toss my bags inside. A boy came around from the side of the jeep to help me. I didn't recognize him. This boy had dark hair. It was buzzed. I stared, a confused, uncomprehending look on my face, I'm sure. But then the boy smiled and I looked carefully into his face. Glittering green eyes.

"What the heck happened to your hair?" I exclaim in astonishment. I would have never guessed that Matt would buzz all his hair off. He laughs at me.
"It was too hot. Not very practical beach hair." I laugh then, too. He looks so different.
"So this is your natural color?" I ask. I'm sure it must have been there underneath the blond, but this is the first time I've actually seen it.
"Yeah, I figured I'd go natural for a change," he says. We're done loading up my bags. Anne and Rock are in the backseat. Of course Anne would make sure I ride up front with Matt.

I keep glancing over at him as we make our way to the beach. No more hippie hair. I can't help but wonder if he's telling the whole truth about why he cut it. Did Anne mention something to him about my not being attracted to blonds? Would Matt really cut off all his hair for that sole reason? Instead of feeling good that he would do something like that for me, I feel sort of guilty. Matt is a really good guy and I don't want him to feel like he has to change for me. I may never return his feelings. I may never see him as anything other than a friend. I want to be fair to him. He deserves that. 
I decide that, if it comes up and he broaches the subject, I'll be straightforward with him about how I feel.

As we travel we all talk about our plans for the weekend. The guys want to buy boogie boards. Anne and I both agree that the Aquarium is a must. Rock groans, but Matt seems interested.
"Why don't you want to go to the Aquarium, Rock?" Anne asks, sounding annoyed. "They've got sharks!"
"Really?" He seems to think about this for a second. "Well, I guess we can check it out for a little while." Guys and sharks. I don't get it.

As soon as we arrive we go straight to the hotel to check in and take all the bags up to our room. I notice the balcony right away. The view is beautiful; it looks out over the beach. Sand and sea and sky. I breathe deeply, welcoming the salty scent that floats on the ocean breeze.
"Isn't it gorgeous?" Anne says, coming up beside me. She leans against the railing, her arms crossed.
"It is," I say. "It's beautiful. I bet the sunrise is magnificent out here." She laughs a little and says, "Well you can get up at the crack of dawn if you want to, but this is a vacation and I plan on sleeping in. Because, you know, that's what you're supposed to do while on vacation."
"So, what do you guys want to do first?" Matt asks, coming out onto the balcony and sitting in one of the deck chairs arranged next to a small table in one corner.
"Get some lunch," Rock says. He's standing just inside the doorway. He's not exactly the friendliest guy on the planet.
"Okay, that's one option. Anyone else?" Matt asks. A warm breeze blows against him, making his red long-sleeve t-shirt tighten around his upper body. I'm struck again with the thought that he's been working out. I can see the outline of muscles that definitely weren't there before.
Anne nudges me with her elbow. "Huh?" I mumble, glancing at her. She grins. "Where have you been? I asked if you wanted to go out on the beach now or eat lunch first." I didn't even hear her.
"Oh. Um... Actually I am kind of hungry."
"Lunch it is!" Matt announces, jumping up and leading the way.

Out here on the beach, with the sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the shore, all the things that seemed so important back home don't really hold that much weight anymore. My worries appear so much smaller somehow. Maybe it's the vastness of the ocean or the way the sky looks so much bigger. Either way, the beach is a great place to relax and recharge.
Strangely, there aren't as many people as I was expecting. Anne lies on a giant beach towel, tanning. She insisted on going back to the hotel after lunch to change into her bikini. She told me I should try to tan also, to do something about how pasty I look, but I just laughed and walked off.
Matt brought a frisbee which he and Rock are tossing back and forth near the water. I can hear them hollering to each other and laughing loudly.
I decide to go for a walk up the beach. Matt sees me and waves. I smile and wave back.
I haven't walked very far when he comes jogging up alongside me. He slows to match my pace.
"Where did you leave Rock?" I ask.
"He wanted to go get the boogie boards, so I gave him my keys." We're both quiet as we walk, enjoying the atmosphere.
"I love it here," Matt says after a few minutes.
"Me too. I wish I could live here. It's lovely." We walk farther down the beach a little ways and then I feel his hand gently wrap around mine.
I stop. He takes a few more steps and then he stops too. I'm not sure what to say exactly. I ease my hand away from him. I don't want to injure him with my words, but I already made a decision to be fair to him.
"Matt," I say, wanting it to come out right. "I like you, a friend. I value our friendship and it is very important to me. But I...I just can't offer you anything other than that. I don't have those kinds of feelings for you." I try to smile a little, to lighten the weight of what I've just said. As if that will help somehow. For a second I'm not sure what he'll say. He looks at me and his eyes are the only things that betray him. I can see the slightest bit of pain in those mesmerizing green pools. And deep inside of me, I feel that pain too.
Then he breaks the silence. He says, "You might not feel anything for me now, but do you think it's possible that later on, after some time, you could feel something for me?" That pain stabs more fiercely. Why is he doing this to me? Why? I swallow hard and work to remain composed. I say, "I don't know. It wouldn't be fair for you to hold out hope if it's not ever going to happen. I don't want you to be even more disappointed. And I also don't want to jeopardize our friendship by putting unnecessary pressure on it to be something other than what it is." I hate saying these things because I know it's not what he wants to hear, but I have to get it all out in the open now. I'm worried that I've crushed him, but he surprises me and smiles.
"You're right, Bay. I don't want to put any pressure on you or our friendship. I have the highest respect for you as a person and as my friend. But it's impossible for me to stop hoping that your feelings will change. I won't bring it up again, but I need you to know that I'm not giving up." He smiles brightly at me, his eyes hopeful. I shake my head and smile back at him. When I look into his eyes again I can still see traces of pain mixed with hope, and my heart aches.                            

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Series of Events Part 4

Memories. Aren't they a strange thing? It's strange to think about. Something could happen and we could wake up one day with no memories at all. No connection to the past. To the people we knew. We could forget it all.

I don't want to forget.

When it rains, I want to remember that day. When I pass by a bowling alley, I want to remember that day. On Sundays, I want to remember all the Sundays I spent with Matt and Anne, having lunch together.

A couple weeks after the night at the bowling alley, Matt started coming to church. The first time he came, I was surprised at seeing him. His hair was pulled back neatly, no lose strands trying to fly away. He wore a pair of khaki pants and a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up a bit. Anne saw him first; she was facing the door. Waving him over, she smiled and welcomed him. I smiled, too.
After the service was over Anne suggested that the three of us go out for lunch. I shot her a look. Was she trying to force me together with Matt? But I brushed it off and agreed anyway.

Sunday lunches with Matt and Anne became normal for me. After a while it became something I looked forward to. Spending so much time with other people, it was...unusual for me. For so long I had been a loner, someone who's used to doing things on her own. In the beginning it wasn't by choice; I just didn't have any friends. I wasn't sure how to go about making any. Then I'd gotten used to being by myself. It was hard to break that mold. But after some time of being around other human beings, I realized how much I'd missed it.

"Let's go shopping!" Matt says at lunch one Sunday. It's late August, almost September. We sit at a table in a small bistro. Anne is to my left, Matt to my right.
"Shopping?" I ask, skeptical. "Why do we need to go shopping?"
"Don't discourage the boy!" Anne, who adores shopping, says.
"Because we're going to the beach, and I need some new clothes, that's why," Matt answers, grinning mischievously. I am very confused. "Since when are we going to the beach?" I ask. This is the first I've heard about it.
"Well, since I'm going to be going off to school soon, I think we should go to the beach before summer is officially over. I've been secretly planning it for a while." His eyes gleam like a little kid. I look at Anne to see if she knew about this. I can't tell, she just looks ecstatic. "I don't know..." I begin, but I don't get very far.
"Come on! It'll be a blast! And it's only for a few days," Matt says. He tilts his head to the side and pretends to pout.
"Bailey, this is the beach we're talking about here!" Anne pipes in. "And besides, Rock is coming too. That's the only reason my parents are letting me go." Ah, so she did know. Rock is her older brother, and I still don't know why they call him that. Anne and Matt are the same age, both a year and a half younger than me. I wouldn't need my parents' permission to go, but I'm still not sure. Granted, the beach is only about an hour away, and I haven't been in a very long time. As I consider it, a little voice in the back of my mind whispers, "Do it! Go! Live a little. Be spontaneous for a change!" Matt still looks at me hopefully. I crack.
"Alright! Fine. I'll go."

"Anne, what do you think about this one?" Matt is holding up a horrible looking mustard-yellow short-sleeve button up shirt for Anne to inspect. It has a weird maroon triangle pattern all over it. We decided on shopping after all.
She makes a face like she's in pain. By the looks of that shirt, it's quite possible she is.    
"Ugh, Matt! That's gross." She shakes her head and says, "Get Bailey to help you while I go look for flip-flops." And with that, she's gone.
"Is it really that bad?" he asks me, obviously oblivious to his lack of fashion sense.
"Um, yeah, it really is that bad." I can't help but laugh at him. "Maybe tone it down just a little. Or, well, maybe a lot. Try something like this," I say, grabbing a light blue shirt in the same style; short-sleeve button up, but without the loud colors and awkward triangle pattern. "And if you're willing to try it," I say, "maybe go with something a bit classier than cut-offs and tie-dye." I smile at him. He laughs and smiles back. "I think it's worth a shot," he says, scanning through a rack of clothes. I help him pick out a few shirts that I think will look good on him. "Stripes are usually a win, as long as they're neutral colors, and plaid works most of the time, as long as it isn't like, yellow and pink or something," I tell him, laughing a little, because I could definitely see him wearing something like that.
"Right, got it. Pink and yellow plaid - not good."
After we've looked around and picked out a few more things, I say, "Okay, I guess you can go try all those on now."
I wait outside the dressing room. It's not long before he comes out, modeling the first outfit. The shirt is the light blue button up I picked out. He's also got on a pair of grey shorts, much nicer-looking than cut-offs. 
"So? What do you think?" he says, spinning around and striking a model-type pose. I laugh. "I think it looks really good. I like the combination. Let's see the other ones." He dances off, back to the dressing room. A couple more minutes and he's back out wearing the second outfit. This time he's got on a grey and green striped pocket shirt and a pair of navy shorts that are rolled up a couple times.
"How do I look?" he asks. I smile slightly. He sounds a little unsure.
"Don't worry, you look great. I like the stripes. How many more have you got left?"
"Just one," he says, heading back to the dressing room. The next time he emerges he's wearing a maroon short-sleeve shirt that has a few buttons at the throat and a pocket on the left. The sleeves are rolled up a bit. That's when I notice his arms. They are definitely larger than when I first met him. His muscles stand out, making him look sort of buff. I shake my head, realizing that I've been staring.
"Well? How do you like this one?" he asks.
"Um. Oh, I like it a lot. Maroon is a good color on you, and it goes well with the tan pants." The pants are rolled up a few inches on the bottom, apparently the style this year.
Once Matt is back into the clothes he came in, we head off to the shoes department. Anne is still there.
"What have you been doing this whole time?" I ask her.
"Trying on shoes, duh," she says, like it should be obvious.
"I thought you were just looking for flip-flops," Matt says, laughing.
"I was, and I found some. But then I saw a pair of flats that I had to try on. They're the cutest things! But I couldn't find my size so I went to ask the salesperson if they had any more, and he was taking a really long time, but finally he came back out with the shoes. So I tried them on and loved them! I decided to get those, too. And then after that I saw these cute running shoes, so now I'm trying them on." I just blink.
"Anne, you don't run," I tell her, as if that will make any difference.
"Well, I might, if I had some super cute shoes to run in," she says, smiling. Far be it from me to get between the woman and her shoes.
"Right, well, you do that while Bailey and I go look over here," Matt says, taking my arm and leading me off to the Men's section. I think Anne's shoe obsession scares him. I know how he feels.

Matt already has flip-flops, so I suggest boat shoes. He actually really likes them, which surprises me. I thought he would insist on Chucks, or something like that. We've narrowed it down to either navy blue or  a reddish color called Red Nubuck.
"Which do you like best?" I ask Matt. He seems to ponder this for a moment, then says, "I think the red. What do you think?"
"Yeah, I think so too."

I decide to get a couple pairs of shorts while we're here. It doesn't take me long to choose some brown plaid, some blue striped shorts, and a pair of light green crop pants that Anne talked me into getting. But no matter how hard she pushed, I would not hear of purchasing the bikini she wanted me to get to match hers. Finally we're finished and ready to go. Once we're back in Matt's jeep, I ask, "So when are we going to the beach exactly?" I can't believe I'm just now asking.
"Next weekend," Matt answers. "We'll leave Friday morning and come back Sunday afternoon." I feel something slowly swelling up inside of me. It's small at first, but it grows steadily larger. It's excitement.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life Is Messy

Sometimes people don't want to talk about it.

Maybe if we pretend it isn't there, no one will know about it.

What? That you're life isn't perfect? That you don't have it all figured out? That you don't have all the answers? That you're actually...........human!? *GASP!*

So what? Life is messy. Life can get ugly sometimes. Life hurts. That's just the way it is. And I know we've all heard it a bazillion times, but, life isn't fair. It's not. It won't ever be fair. (Until Jesus comes back. ;))

So why do we act like it's not okay to not be okay? Why do we hide behind our fake smiles and lie when people ask us how we're doing? What is so terrible about being honest?

 The thing is, nobody is ever okay 100% of the time. Maybe not even 75% or 50% of the time. Life is crazy and messy and unpredictable and we've got no choice but to try to somehow get through those difficult times. We're not always going to know where we're going. We're not always going to be happy. Times will be bad. They'll suck ass. Everyone goes through crap at one point or another. So why try to hide it all the time?

It's okay to not be okay.

If I ask how you're doing, it's because I want to know. Because I actually care. It's not some pleasantry, or just, you know, shooting the breeze. Just small talk. (I hate small talk.) I ask because you're important to me and I hope you feel comfortable enough to share parts of your life with me. If you're having a crappy day and feel like shit, I want to know. I want to be there to offer a listening ear. I want you to know that someone understands. And even if it's something that, maybe I can't understand personally, I still want to be there to the best of my ability. Offer support. Or the least I could do is buy you coffee. Or, I don't know, some chicken.

I think christians especially have this mindset or whatever that it's not "normal" or "acceptable" to be without answers. For some reason we think we're supposed to be the ones with all the answers. We're supposed to be the ones out there saving souls, so we should never feel lost ourselves. We should never be not okay. We should never be depressed. We should never be unjoyful. We should never have doubts. How will anyone ever see Jesus in us if we're depressed? How will the world see God's love in us if we're unhappy for a millisecond? Aren't we supposed to have our acts together? Aren't we supposed to possess superhuman powers that prevent anything bad from happening to us? We're not supposed to be capable of experiencing things like despair, pain, loss, discouragement, anguish, sorrow, misery, dejection. We're supposed to always think positive thoughts and always have something encouraging to say.



Wrong wrong wrong. Wrong. Because you see, bad things do happen to good people. I don't know why. I'll never know why. I don't think anyone knows why. But that's part of life. I wish it wasn't. I really wish it wasn't. And sometimes there just isn't anything encouraging to say. Sometimes it seems like there aren't any positive things to think about. And sometimes we are broken.

And that is okay too.         

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"You're not alone."

I've heard that a lot. Kinda sounds like crap to me.

Maybe it sounds like crap to you too. Maybe, I don't know, you've tried talking to someone about what's bothering you, about how you feel, and they say something like that. Like, "I completely understand. I know how you feel. But trust me, you're not alone."

And maybe some people are really great and they try to be there for you and check up on you and see how you're doing, asking if you need anything. Maybe they really do understand, empathizing with you because maybe they've been there too. If so, that's awesome.

But what about those of us who really are alone? Or those who are surrounded by people on all sides, yet feel alone? Those suffering from depression brought on by such heavy loneliness? And maybe you feel like that. Like there isn't anything you can do about it, as if it's beyond your control. Maybe you've tried everything you know to do, but you just can't get involved socially, or you just can't make friends, or you just can't seem to engage in conversation with other people because you feel really awkward in groups or crowds.

So what do you do?

Well, I don't know. I don't have an answer for you. If I did I'd be using it myself. I don't think there's any kind of magic solution or system, no specific formula to use to build friendships or get people to invite you to social events. Some people are just "people people" and everyone seems to flock to them, somehow sensing this invisible vibe or, gosh, I don't even know. They just always have a lot of friends and make new ones easily. And then there are those of us who have very few to no friends and we're trying everything we know to do to maintain or find friends, create a social circle (or semi-circle, or even a quarter of a circle...). So what's the difference? Is it that they have a "better" personality? Maybe they're more approachable, more friendly, outgoing, extroverted, etc. Is that it? Hmm, I'm not so sure.

And what if you try to express these thoughts to someone else? (Or maybe there isn't anyone for you to express your thoughts to.) So maybe you spend half an hour talking about how you just feel so alone and you get the above line. The, "I know how you feel, but don't worry about it, you're not alone." How the heck would they freakin know? They're not you. They don't know what thoughts go through your head. Like I said, maybe there are some people who really do get it, maybe some people do understand, and that's cool. Great. Really swell.
But a lot of times, that's just something people say to try to make you feel better.

But it doesn't make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse.

Know why? I'll tell you why. It's because after you spend all this time trying to convey your feelings to someone, and they know what's bothering you, the majority of the time, nothing changes. Things go right back to the way they were. You're still alone. Still friendless. That person that you spent so much time talking to, pouring out your feelings, they just feed you some stupid line and then go on their way, continue with their life and don't bother with you anymore. It's like what you just told them means absolutely nothing.

What is wrong with this picture?

Think about this for a second, especially in the context of spiritual fellowship and one of the biggest principles of Christianity. What was the first thing God observed about Adam, his first human creation? That it wasn't good for man to be alone. Now really think about that. Adam had close fellowship with God himself. Adam already had God, right there, his very own Creator. Yet, God still said that it wasn't good for man to be alone. Funny, don't you think, that God would say that, even though he was right there with Adam. I think it's because we were made to need and desire human relationships. Trying to go through life without friends, especially those who share faith in Jesus, brothers and sisters in Christ, is extremely difficult. I'd even go so far as to say it's dangerous. Not only can loneliness lead to depression and mental unhealthiness, but it's not very fun or enjoyable. Isn't the second greatest commandment to love others? There's a huge emphasis on love. 

John 13:34 -  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And the importance of friendships:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 -  Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

Proverbs 27:17  -  As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

But then we come back to the question of: What if I have no one to sharpen my iron? (So to speak.) And again I am without answer. It's really sad though, to consider that so many people out there are so lonely and and feel so overwhelmingly alone when the greatest thing Christians can do is to love one another, to love and accept everyone. There shouldn't be people out there without a friend. There shouldn't be orphans out there without loving families. There shouldn't be teenagers committing suicide because they feel unlovable. There shouldn't.... No, there shouldn't.

If you feel alone and have no one to talk to, please, message me. I don't have any more answers than you do, but I'm a real person, with a real heart, and I care about those out there who feel like no one gives a crap.    

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Series of Events Part 3

Three cars drive by as I sit on my front porch sipping my coffee. Two white, one red. 


I'm hit with a flashback. Another one. A red jeep. Matt's red jeep.

It was the day I decided to go to the bowling alley. I wasn't planning on staying long, maybe half an hour or so. I'd called my friend, Anne, to ask if she wanted to go with me, and was surprised when she said she was already going. So I told her I'd see her there.

I like bowling, I just don't like all the noise. But I guess you have to take it or leave it.
It's about 6:30 as I pull my old, green Chevy truck into a parking space and head inside. I wanted to make sure Matt would already be here when I arrived. He is. I spot him right off. There aren't too many boys with long, bleach-blond hair walking around. And the tie-dye shirt makes him stand out even more. This time he's wearing cut-off shorts. Nice.
He's standing in a group of two other guys and about three girls, one of which is Anne. That surprises me. I didn't know she knew Matt. At that moment she sees me and waves. I walk slowly over to join the group. I feel nervous. This is definitely not my comfort zone. Being around so many people, especially people I don't know, makes me uncomfortable. I push my glasses up and try to smile as I reach them.
Matt sees me then. His face lights up.
"Bailey! Hey! You came!" He comes right over and gives me a hug. I freeze. I am not expecting that. I think he senses my feelings of awkwardness by the look on his face, but he doesn't say anything. He just sort of chuckles. Anne comes up and hugs me too, but that's normal. She looks a little confused though, so I quickly explain how I met Matt and that he invited me to come tonight.
"Ohhh, I see," she says, giving me this weird grin as if there's some secret I just let her in on. I glare at her.
"I think I know what you're thinking, and it's not what you think. At all." One of the guys calls to Matt, saying it's his turn to bowl. He waves at Anne and me, then goes off to take his turn. I sit down on one of the benches slightly apart from the rest of the group. Anne sits down beside me.
"Are you sure it's not what I think? Because what I think is, Matt is totally into you!" I huff and glare at her some more. "How would you know?" I ask her. That really is a dumb question, though. If anyone can tell when someone likes someone else, it's Anne.
She laughs a little. "Well, for one, did you see his face when he saw you? Totally smitten. And before you got here he kept glancing at the door like he was waiting for someone. I've known Matt for a while. Our parents are good friends. Growing up, he was the boy next door. Then in the eighth grade his family moved away. They just moved back a few months ago. I know he's planning on going to college this fall. That's part of the reason they moved back, so he could go to the university here." She pauses for a minute, considering something. "Bailey," she says. "Matt is a good guy. He's outgoing and funny and spontaneous. He's alive. Really alive. And he might not say it, but I can tell he has feelings for you. He's the same boy I grew up with." She smiles, remembering her childhood friend.
I sigh deeply. I didn't ask for this. What do I say? I rub my right temple in frustration. Finally I say, "Anne, I'm sure he's a great guy. But he's just not my type. And as you already know, I'm really not interested in a relationship right now. Maybe not ever." She raises one eyebrow at me and gives me a look, as if to say, "Please. You're being completely ridiculous!" Instead she says, "And what is your type exactly?"
"Well, I'm not really attracted to blond guys. Like, at all. And I'm not sure what's up with the whole 'hippie' thing he's got going on." I actually laugh then. Something about it amuses me. Anne laughs too. Matt walks over right at that moment.
"What's so funny?" he asks, grinning at us. For a second I'm worried that Anne will tell him what we've been talking about. That we've been talking about him.
"Nothing," she says, shaking her head. She gets up and walks back over to speak to the girls in the group. Matt sits down next to me.

Ugh. Not again. The engine stalls as I turn the key. Pointless. I've tried it half a dozen times. I glance out the window, searching the parking lot for Anne's car. Not here. She must have left already, or either she came with one of the other girls. I notice the red jeep in the spot next to my truck. Someone is sitting inside, texting. The light from the phone's screen illuminates the front of their shirt. Tie-dye. Matt. Figures.
I get out and tap on the passenger-side window of the jeep. His head jerks up, startled. I grimace and mouth the word, "Sorry." He leans across and rolls down the window.
"I didn't mean to scare you. It's my truck. It won't start and Anne left already and..."
"Hop in," he says. "I can drive you home." Just like that. In the fading evening light I look into his eyes. I don't find anything there to alarm me. He appears to be totally genuine all the way thru. I hope Anne is right about him being a good guy.
I grab my bag and keys out of my truck and lock the doors, then climb into Matt's jeep and buckle up. "Are you sure it's no trouble? I mean, I can call my dad and just wait here for him to come get me."
"No, no. Don't worry about it. Besides, I'm already here, and I wouldn't want you to have to wait here by yourself." He does have a point. I don't really want to wait here alone. It's getting darker as we speak.

It's quiet for a little while as we travel down the highway. I fiddle with my keyring as I try to think of something to say. But he's the one to break the silence. "So how long have you known Anne?"
"About two years," I tell him. "I met her when my family started attending the church she goes to. She was telling me earlier that you guys grew up together." He nods his head and grins. "Yeah, we did."
We talk for a while about simple things, things that have no hidden meaning, things that are easy to digest. And I find myself enjoying his company. It's not forced. It's just...nice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TSN: Not Writing Negativity?

I have been doing a lot of thinking here lately. And also a lot of reading. Articles, blogs, people's views and opinions on life and "the church" and "christianity" and all that other stuff. It really makes my brain wheels spin.

Just today I read something called, Stop Defining Yourself By What You Don't Like. (You can read that, too, right here.) And as I was reading it I was thinking, "Huh....yeah, that kind of sort of sounds a tad bit like it might slightly, in a way, resemble me. A little bit." And I wondered why that is. Why do I tend to talk so much about, and get so worked up over the things I don't like or disagree with?

One part of the article says this: "It’s safer, in a sense, to share with people impassioned negativity than to share with them something closer to our hearts: the things we like. Or daresay, the things we love."

And if I'm being honest, which I am, it's actually kind of difficult for me to try and write something that isn't negative. Now, I'm not going to say that I agree with every single point the writer made, because I don't. I think there are times when we should talk about negative things and the affect they have on us personally, or on us as a group or a nation. If you never talk about things, nothing will ever be done and things won't ever change.

But I don't think that was really her point in writing the article. She wasn't saying (from my perspective) that we should only ever talk about positive things all the time and pretend that nothing ever goes wrong. That's unrealistic. I think what she was getting at was that we shouldn't define ourselves by what we hate. (I think there's also another question in there too; if we shouldn't define ourselves by what we dislike, does it then follow that we should define ourselves by what we do like/love? I'm just gonna leave that right there.) And I agree with that point; I don't think we should let those things take precedence in us. 

I said to my mom just the other day, after talking about something I didn't like, "You know, I think I dislike more things than I actually like." I said it sort of jokingly, but now that I've taken some time to really think about the concept, it's actually pretty weird. And sad.
It's not that I don't like things. I like plenty of things. I just spend a lot more time and energy talking and thinking about the things/people/concepts that I don't like. I mean, I can really get going on a topic which I have a negative view or opinion on. I can talk for hours about it! Literally. But if it's something that I do like, I have trouble finding the words to describe my thoughts on whatever it might happen to be.

So, in an attempt to put negativity aside for a little while (as sort of a trial period), I am going to dedicate the remainder of this post to only writing about things I like. Here goes....


Hmm......thinking.....trying to think of something I like.....

What do I like....?.....

I like the beach! Yeah, I do. I really like the beach! It's so warm and breezy and salty-smelling. There are countless shops to go in and interesting things to look at and buy. Houses look cool because they're up on stilts or whatever you call them. Sand. Sun. Water. It's incredibly relaxing and refreshing. The whole atmosphere. It's such a huge change compared to what I see from day to day. Seagulls flying and squawking overhead. Sandcastle building. Salt-water taffy that makes me feel sick when I eat it, but tastes so good. Yeah, I like the beach.

I like Fall. I like the cool, crisp air. I like feeling the softness and warmth of my sweater when I pull it on over my head. I like the colors; orange, red, yellow. I like watching Charlie Brown's, The Great Pumpkin. Apple cider and pumpkin flavored and scented everything. I like hay rides and walks in the chilly air. Raking leaves and tromping through them, listening closely as they crunch under my feet. I like driving through a neighborhood and smelling the smoky scent of burning leaves. I like wearing boots and jackets and sitting near campfires, looking up at the stars because it's finally the perfect temperature to be outside. I like taking a trip to the mountains, where I'm awed, once again, at the magnificence of something so massive and beautiful,  painted in golds and reds. It's one of my favorite times of the year.

I like to read. I like opening a great book and getting lost in the world the author has created; when I'm so immersed in their world that I feel as if I'm actually in it. I like getting to know each of the characters, building this type of interesting relationship with them and getting so attached to them that it makes me sad when the book is over because I have become a part of their story too. Their story has become a part of me, a part of  my story. I like when a writer can pull on my emotions and make me feel what their characters feel. I like when the writer makes me think and question things that I thought I understood. I like when books take me on adventures.

And I like to write. It's the best way for me to express my thoughts and feelings. It's the easiest way for me to connect to other people. I'm not very good at speaking; my thoughts get all jumbled up in my mind and I find it difficult to explain correctly whatever it is I'm trying to get across to someone else. My thoughts come out so much clearer when I write them. I also like writing stories. It's that feeling of creating something. Making something that wasn't there before. I can say and do whatever I want in my stories. I can cause other people to say and do whatever I want in my stories. Because I'm the author. I'm the creator. I get this weird thrill when I write a story. This strange energy that pumps through me. And it's like I have this....this need to write. Like I have to write. I don't know why. Maybe because I have so many words and thoughts in my head and I feel like if I don't get them out my brain might explode.

Well, that wasn't so hard once I got started. It feels a bit foreign, to tell you the truth, but I now know it's possible. There are things I actually do like. It's just not as easy to find them. And I can talk about them without including anything negative. Who would've guessed?

Once again people,

LOVE. PEACE. BACON. (Not necessarily in that order....)         

Monday, July 8, 2013

TSN: Writing A Book Review - Divergent by Veronica Roth

 "One choice can transform you." 

Open Divergent by Veronica Roth and be prepared to step into futuristic Chicago; a world where society is divided into five factions, each one content on cultivating and living out a particular virtue. These factions consist of: Abnegation, which values selflessness, Amity, believing peace to be most important, Candor, practicing honesty at all costs, Erudite, seeking knowledge, and Dauntless, home of the brave.

On an appointed day every year, all sixteen-year-olds, no matter their current faction, are required to take part in the Choosing Ceremony, where they will decide, based on the results of their aptitude tests, which faction they will live and serve in for the rest of their lives. They may choose to stay in the faction they grew up in, or leave their families behind and be initiated into a new faction, never to be reunited with their families again. And that is precisely the choice that Beatrice Prior must make.

Raised in an Abnegation family, Beatrice never felt like she belonged there. She always felt as if she wasn't good enough, or selfless enough like her older brother Caleb, who always seemed to be the perfect example of self-sacrificing. The choice, for Beatrice, is about more than just choosing the right thing because it's the right thing. It's about deciding between who she should be and who she really is.

Though her father calls them "hellions," Beatrice has always been fascinated by the black-clothed Dauntless teens who perform incredible feats to prove their bravery. Every morning at school, the only place where the factions mix, she watches from the window as young Dauntless-born men and women launch themselves from the fast-moving train that delivers them from the Dauntless sector of the city. Although she admits that she should wonder what tattoos and a metal ring through your nostril have to do with courage, she can't help the way these seemingly fearless people captivate her attention.       

 After taking the aptitude test, Beatrice discovers something unusual about herself, something she is warned to keep a secret at all cost because of how dangerous it is; a secret that, if revealed, even to those she trusts most, could be fatal. She's been warned that what she is, who she is, could put her life, and the lives of her loved ones, in jeopardy.

In chapter five, she makes her decision. It's a decision that no one saw coming, not even Beatrice herself. But as she says at the end of the chapter, "I am selfish. I am brave." Indeed, it takes much bravery to be who you really are, despite those around you shouting conformity.

After the Choosing Ceremony all the initiates, including the new faction transfers, must go back to their faction headquarters, where initiation begins straightaway. If, for whatever reason, an initiate fails to rank in one of the spots available for new members, that person will be turned out of their faction and become factionless, something viewed as worse than death; to be without an identity.

During the process of initiation, which includes extremely difficult physical and mental training, Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, struggles to determine who her true friends are. She also makes a few enemies, who view her as a weak "Stiff," and even, at one point, kidnap her and attempt to throw her over the side of a massive chasm with roaring rapids far beneath. But to the astonishment of everyone around her, she demonstrates, multiple times, that despite her small size and lack of physical strength, she's made of much more than anyone expects.

Early on in the story a mysterious character, who becomes Tris' love interest, is introduced. The "sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating" Four. From the start he recognizes that there's more to Tris than meets the eye. He sees her not as a little girl, but as someone capable of great courage. As their relationship develops and he and Tris get closer, more of his past is revealed and we get a better look into who he is and why he feels so conflicted.

Then of course, the secret Tris has been hiding comes into play. As she discovers a mounting conflict between the factions that's threatening to tear her apparently perfect society to pieces, and an attack planned and executed by evil genius, Jeanine Matthews, Tris learns that her secret might save those she loves....or it might destroy her. In the face of absolute danger she must act; she must be selfless; she must be brave. She realizes that selflessness and bravery aren't really all that different.

My thoughts on Divergent:

Honestly I have to give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It was just that good. I absolutely loved the story and the pacing was genius. I have developed a love for dystopian YA novels over the past couple years and, though I've read a few that were not at all 5 star material, to say the least, Divergent exceeded my expectations. I don't really have any negative comments to make about this book, other than that the world of Tris' futuristic Chicago is not very plausible; I can't really see that it would ever be a realistic future for the world we live in today. However, that wasn't an issue for me, as I also love The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and that setting is even less plausible.

The idea of a society divided into factions really intrigued me, especially the fact that they each valued a specific virtue so much that they would dedicate their entire lives to cultivating it within themselves and shaping their lives to not only resemble, but embody those values. You know it's extreme when it even dictates the way one dresses and the food one eats.      

 The characters appealed to me in that they were flawed, imperfect people just like you and me. Real people. Tris is sometimes a bit cold, not what I would consider a "nice" person, but that's why I love her. I love how she becomes who she really is during the choosing and initiation process. I love her sarcasm and dry humor. She may be small in stature, but she's definitely not a small character.

I think a lot of people, especially the audience for whom it was written, young adults, can really relate to this theme of deciding to be who you are even if it means doing something that other people may not understand or approve of. Often there are certain expectations on young people to follow a particular path that has been marked out for them; they're encouraged to abide by the norm and do what's "safe." But I think there comes a time in each of our lives where we have to choose who we're going to be and what road we're going to travel. And like Tris, we're going to need to be brave to do it.

Veronica Roth has, in my opinion, the perfect writing style. I'm very critical when it comes to books and how they're laid out, whether the dialogue is realistic, how things are described, etc. I had absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I loved that Tris was the one to tell her own story. It wouldn't have been nearly as good if it were told by anyone else. It's a story that has to be told by Tris.

There was a sense of humor within the book that I appreciated, such as the first time Tris eats a hamburger, or when Will says to Christina,  "That's my girl. Tough as cotton balls." There were also many sad parts, such as having to accept that certain characters didn't make it to the end of the book. This made it more realistic for me, and better, in a way, because it would be illogical to think that after everything that happened during the story everyone would come out of it fine and go on living happily ever after. Life doesn't work that way, so why should the storyline? It also adds a lot to Tris' character and how she develops as things progress.

Another thing that I really liked was Tris and Four's relationship. It wasn't all roses and sunshine and chocolate cake. (The cake is a Dauntless joke. Read the book and you'll get it.) It's a real relationship between two real people. It has issues and problems. They argue and have fights, but they make an effort and try to work things out because they truly care about each other. They accept and admire each other for who they really are, imperfections and all.

The last point I want to make is that of the "government." Namely, Jeanine Matthews, leader of Erudite and power hungry genius. Like all "villains," she desires a world where people live in wealth, comfort, and prosperity, willing to do anything to achieve her goals, including mind control and murder of innocent people. She also wants everyone to know what a smart little b**ch she is. I can't imagine the plot happening any other way. I love the psychology aspect and how it really made my brain work to try to figure out the way Jeanine thinks and reasons. Though she is definitely a genius, she chose to use her powers for evil, which, really just makes the book that much better because everyone needs someone to hate.         

All in all this book was awesome. It's most assuredly my favorite book. I would (and have) recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a good read. I loved it so much the first time that I read it, and it's sequel, Insurgent, twice, and I plan on reading them both again before the third and final book in the series, Allegiant, comes out on October 22, 2013.            

Some random facts that I thought were pretty cool:

Inspiration for Divergent, taken from Veronica Roth's blog, which you can find here.

First thing to mention is that there wasn't really one definite moment for Veronica where she was hit with the idea for Divergent. It was more like several different things that started the process of discovering the characters and the storyline. Things like, a psychology class, a certain song, the aspect of people being divided into groups and the workings of governmental systems, and finally her own character, Tris.

This is a quote from Veronica Roth's blog. It's her response to this question: " What is the one thing/the message you would like people to take away from your book?" You can read the full story right here.

"But I would much rather you come away with questions than answers. Questions about virtue, and what it is, and if it makes you worth something, and if being "good" is the most important thing, and if it's not, what is? Or: is the consistency of your character the best thing you have to offer the world? Can you can be defined, and should you even try? Or even: what should you look for in a friend, or a boyfriend, or a girlfriend?"

Some basic facts about Veronica Roth:

She is 24 years old, born August 19, 1988 (I was like, say whaaat?? She's so young to be a bestselling author!)
With shoes on, she is 6 feet tall!
She's married to a dude named Nelson, who is a photographer, and they live in Chicago, where Divergent takes place.
Divergent was her first book to be published.
She graduated from Northwestern with a degree in creative writing, but often chose to work on Divergent instead of doing homework. (Such a rebel.)
She has been writing for about 12 years.

Facts about Divergent:

Published in May of 2011, it is the first book in the Divergent trilogy.
Originally, Divergent started out being written in the perspective of Tobias.
During the writing process, all of the scenes with Four were written first.
Divergent is currently in the process of being made into a film from Summit Entertainment, and is due to hit theaters on March 21, 2014
Divergent won Favorite book of 2011 in 2011's Goodreads Choice Awards.

I hope you have enjoyed this review. Please feel free to leave a comment. If you've read Divergent let me know what you thought of it.

P.S. In case you were wondering what TSN means, it's "Trying Something New," as in, I am trying something new by writing this book review, because I've never written one before. ;)     

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sick of Cliche

I'm not sure why I'm just noticing it all of a sudden. I'm not sure why it's standing out to me now. And I'm not sure why it's bothering me so much.

But I've got to talk about it.

I'm writing to get this out of my brain. To put my thoughts into words and words onto a screen. If I don't, it will just keep nagging at me and I won't be able to stand it.

Truth is, I'm so irritated with all these cliche phrases that Christians use all the time. Maybe you've noticed it too. With the exception of a few new words that have become popular, especially in the teenage generation, Christians are saying the exact same thing that they've always said.

Aren't Christians (myself included) real people?

Why do they act like robots? Do they have these phrases, these words they automatically resort to, programmed into their minds so that they come to the surface whenever a certain situation comes up?

Okay, I'll give you an example to try and illustrate what I'm talking about. Let's say that I'm just feeling really down and out and I finally get up the nerve to talk to someone about how I'm feeling. So I go to my Christian friend, we'll call her....Sarah. So I go talk to Sarah about how I just feel really down and I can't seem to get past it. What do you think she says? Probably something along the lines of, "Aww, that really stinks. I'm so sorry. I'll pray for you." Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying it's bad to pray for people. It's always nice to have someone praying for you. That's not my point.

Here's another example: This time let's say that I've been struggling with something, and I'm really not proud of it, I don't really want to talk about it, but I feel like I need some help. So let's say I go to my friend, we'll call him....John. So I say something like, "You know, John, I've really been struggling with (you name it) and I don't know what to do about it." John tries to put on this Christian sympathetic look and says, "Well, have you tried praying about it? Maybe you need to read your Bible more. Ask God to help you with (whatever). He's there for you and He loves you and has a great plan for your life. He'll never leave you...blah blah blah."

And then of course there's the thing Christians do on Facebook. They'll post this picture with some Christian or Biblical statement, maybe a verse, or possibly a quote from a well known pastor or evangelist or whoever. As a comment at the top they'll just say, "Amen?" And I don't know why it is, but I find that incredibly annoying.

My point in saying all this is that, if I go to a person feeling like I need to talk about something that's been going on or maybe something I've been dealing with in my life, I want to talk to an actual person. A human being! I want to speak to a real human heart. I don't want cliche phrases spoken at me, or words preached at me just because that's what we're "supposed" to say to each other when we're going through something difficult or uncomfortable or that just plain sucks. I don't need someone to have all the answers for me. I don't need someone to "fix" me. I don't need to be told that I should pray more or seek God for whatever reasons a person might give me. I know all those things already. Most people who know anything about God already know those things too.

So what is it I think should be done? I think we as Christians need to stop titling or labeling ourselves "Christian" and all that comes to mind when most people here that word. We need to stop thinking about how a "Christian" is supposed to act and just focus on living by the example Jesus gave us. Do you know of anywhere in the Bible where Jesus told someone who was hurting or feeling down or depressed that they should just pray about it and God would help them get through it and be happy? No. No he didn't. And do you know why? Well, I can't be positive, but it probably had something to do with the fact that that isn't helpful! It doesn't make things better for the person struggling. I imagine it just makes them more frustrated.

Let's be humans. Let's be real people. Flawed, ransomed, saved by grace people. Forget the cliche Christianity we've all gotten so used to. Forget the "normal" Christian behavior we've adopted and all those words and phrases that come to mind. Really hear someone when they share their heart with you. Just listen. Be there for them. Offer a hug, a smile. Sometimes those things speak the loudest and are the most comforting things you can offer a hurting heart. Show them LOVE and EAT WITH THEM!       

A Series of Events Part 2

As I dust the bookshelf in my living room, Mansfield Park catches my eye. I stand there for a moment, remembering. My finger traces down the spine and I slip it out of it's spot on the shelf.

My mind travels back to that day. It was a long time ago, but it feels fresh in my memory. It was my second run-in with Matt. After coffee on that rainy day in mid-May, he had asked for my number, but I didn't give it to him. I knew he wasn't my type, and besides, I wasn't the type to give my number out to boys I'd just met. Plus, I believed in that thing they call Fate, and because of that, I believed that if we were supposed to meet again, we would.

I was right.

I'm here again. I find myself in the same bookstore. It isn't raining this time, though.
I'm trying to find a specific book, Mansfield Park, but I've looked everywhere and I just can't find it. I know it must be here. I mean this is a bookstore, after all,  and Jane Austen is practically famous.
I'm on my way to customer service when I hear a voice ask, "Can I help you find anything today, Miss?" I turn around. It's him. Again. He recognizes me immediately. It's been a couple months since we had coffee on that day when the rain forced us together.
For a minute I'm so surprised at seeing him that I don't say anything. I didn't know he worked here. He looks at me expectantly. Right. The book. Finally I say, "Actually, yes. I'm trying to find Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Do you know where that is?" He smiles, his green eyes almost glittering. "Of course," he says. "It's right over here." I follow him to the exact isle I'd just come from. He knows precisely where it is. Maybe I need new glasses. I could have sworn I looked up and down this entire isle.
As he hands me the book, his hand brushes lightly against mine. Did he do that on purpose? I chance a look at his face. Smiling, of course.
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" He says it in a way that sounds completely genuine; not at all like he's saying it because he's required to. I take a moment to study him. His blond hair is pulled back into a ponytail with a few strands hanging down around his face. He's wearing a green apron over a purple t-shirt and jeans with massive holes in the knees. Classy.
"Nope, that'll do it. Thanks for your help," I say. I shoot him a quick smile and then turn to go.
"Bailey. Wait!" I stop, sigh, and turn back around. He just stands there staring at me for a second. Taking a deep breath, he says, "Don't you think it's kinda funny that we're meeting again?" His eyebrows are raised slightly, and his eyes seem to almost plead with me to consider the fact. It's not that I don't want to have anything to do with him. I don't even know him. I'm sure he's probably a nice enough guy, and I suppose it never hurts to make new friends. But I guess I'm just a little wary of people. It takes me a while to warm up to someone new. I don't trust easily. 
"Matt," I begin, and he must hear something in my voice, something that hints at what I'm thinking, because he cuts me off. He says, "Before you say anything, just hear me out, alright? I don't think it's coincidence that we've run into each other again so soon. I don't have any kind of expectations. I just want to be friends. Everybody needs some of those, right?" He smiles then and it makes me feel more comfortable. A bit more at ease. I smile back.
"You're right. Everyone does need friends." He flips his head to the side, even though his hair is pulled back. The loose strands shift slightly, but other than that it doesn't make much of a difference. I shake my head. What's the point of that? Habit, I suppose.
"So," he says, making eye contact. "Some friends and I are going bowling this weekend. Come and hang out. You can bring someone if you want." I consider his offer. It might be nice to actually have contact with the outside world for a change. "Okay. I might stop by. I have to warn you though. I am a terrible bowler." A half smile reaches my lips. His form a whole one. He doesn't seem like the kind of person to do anything half way.
"That's completely alright. I'm awful too. But it's fun! I hope you decide to come. It'll be Saturday at 6. I uh, I better get back to work now. It was nice seeing you again, Bailey." He looks sincere. Why do I always question everyone's sincerity? Why can't I trust that what they say is true? But I'm reminded, again, that so often, it's not.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Getting In The Spirit

In the spirit of "Trying Something New," (lame name, I know. I'll have to come up with a better one eventually) I have indeed tried some new things this year. I'll list a few.

First off, of course, is writing blog posts. I've always really liked to write. Even when I was a kid I loved making up short stories and writing them down. They've definitely improved over the years. Writing is how I sort of detach myself from everything that goes on in my life or in my mind. It's like an escape, even if only for a little while.

I've never really put my stuff out there for people to read freely, and even though no one really views this blog, it's still kinda scary to think that anyone can come and read what I've written. Because those words are part of me. They come from my mind, my heart.

Some other things I've tried are different kinds of food. Now this isn't something that excites me.I'm not usually like, "Yeah! I want to try that green, slimey looking thing!" I'm just not like that. I have some different food allergies, which I think contribute to my apprehension when it comes to trying new foods. But, for the most part, I think I'm getting better. I have tried:

-Kefir (definitely recommend that!)
-Kombucha Tea
-Tofu ( wasn't bad.)
-Sushi (I actually thought it was pretty good.)

Here's a list of books I've read so far this year with my 1-5 star rating:

-The Selection by Kiera Cass ~4
-Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund ~2.5
-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert ~2
-Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks ~3
-When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy ~3.5
-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ~2.5
-The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han ~0
-The Halflings by Heather Burch ~3
-The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks ~3
-Sever by Lauren DeStefano ~4.5
-Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling ~3
-The Elite by Kiera Cass ~4
-Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza ~4.5
-Matched by Ally Condie ~ 2.5
-Crossed by Ally Condie ~2.5
-Reached by Ally Condie ~2.5

 A list of movies I've seen in theaters this year, also with my 1-5 star rating:

-Rise of the Guardians ~4
-The Hobbit ~3.5
-Oz, The Great and Powerful ~4.5
-The Host ~5
-The Croods ~3
-Iron Man 3 ~4.5
-Star Trek: Into Darkness ~5
-Now You See Me ~5
-Man of Steel ~5

I've also read some pretty cool blogs recently that I'll link here in case you want to check them out.

Absolutely loved this one. Could definitely relate.

There were most assuredly some things in here that stood out to me and really clicked.

This one really hits the nail on the head, I think, when it comes to the whole "modesty" thing. Great blog.

Here's a look at "modesty" from a mom's perspective. Good read.

Though I haven't been to a lot of different places, or tried anything incredibly exciting, such as hot air ballooning or sky diving or bungee jumping, I think I've got a good start.

There are so many places that I want to go, things I want to see and experience, and sometimes it feels like I'll never get to do all the things I want to. But I hope that I'll have the opportunity to embark on some great adventures at some point in my life.

If you somehow come across this blog, feel free to leave a comment. (But please be nice :)



Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Series of Events

I remember that day. It was a grey day. Chilly for late Spring. Pouring rain.

It started off so warm and sunny, perfect weather for that time of year, so when the dark, angry clouds moved in so suddenly, it took me by surprise. First yellow, then grey.

I stand inside the book store, pondering whether I should make a mad dash for my truck or remain where I am to wait out the rain. I've almost made up my mind to make a break for it when the door opens. I jump back a few steps to move out of the way. Droplets of water splash onto my arms when the boy shakes his long, bleach-blond hair. I find that annoying. Can't he see me standing here? Though I feel invisible, I know I'm not. I push up my thick-rimmed glasses with my middle finger, tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, and clear my throat to try and get his attention. He still stands exactly where he came through the door. I'm still planning to swim across the parking lot to my truck, and he's in my way.
His head jerks up at the sound of my throat-clearing. Wet hair is plastered across half his face, hiding his right eye from view. I see that his other eye is green. A mesmerizing color. For a moment I forget that I am annoyed at him.
"Oh, I'm sorry, am I in your way?" he asks, sounding oblivious.
"Just a bit," I reply, not smiling at all. His dark eyebrows tug together, as if he's trying to understand me and not succeeding. I open my mouth to complain that he got me wet, shaking his head all over the place like a dog who'd just gotten a bath, but he appears so innocent-looking that I shut my mouth and smile slightly. With hair covering his eye, he probably hadn't noticed me standing there when he came in. I remind myself to try not to be so hard on people.
I move around him and am about to push the door open and venture out into the flood when he catches me by surprise, saying, "Don't you want to wait until it slacks off?" I turn to face him. "Well..." I don't really have anything else to say. It's not like I have somewhere to be. No one is really waiting on me.
He smiles, tilts his head in the direction of the built-in coffee shop and says, "Stay for a bit. Just until it stops raining. I'll buy you something to drink to make up for splashing water on you." Ah. So he'd noticed. I squint at him for a second, debating. He doesn't look like an axe murderer or a psychopath. He just looks like a wet boy trying to be nice.
Sighing, I nod my head in agreement. Besides, I am secretly armed with a taser in case of emergencies. So for the most part, I suppose I feel fairly safe.

I remember thinking that, apart from his eyes, this boy isn't very attractive. I could tell from his dark eyebrows that blond was not his natural hair color. It was much too long for my taste. He kept flipping his head to the side to get his hair out of his eyes, which annoyed me, but I tried not to focus on that.
I got a chance to study his profile a little while he ordered the drinks and I sat at one of the tables near the window. He wasn't tall. He wasn't short either. He wasn't skinny, but he wasn't overweight either.  I could tell that he didn't work out, but he also didn't look like the couch potato type. I'm bad at guessing people's ages, so I couldn't tell how old he was. I thought he looked a little younger than me. Maybe a year or two. I guessed he had probably already graduated from high school. Was he in college? Was he working a summer job? This is what I do. I try to figure people out. I try to understand them. I analyze them.

"I got you a scone. The barista said they were made fresh within the hour," the green-eyed boy says, sitting down across from me. I wince. "That was very nice of you, but I can't eat that." He looks confused. I explain further. "I'm gluten-intolerant."
"Oh geez, I'm sorry. I should have asked." He does look sorry. I shake my head and wave my hand in the air, waving the mistake away. "Thanks for the coffee," I say, offering a small smile in his direction. "Look at this; you bought me coffee and I don't even know your name." I don't offer him mine first.
"My name is Matt. Conally. Matt Conally." He smiles again. He seems to give it freely, no strings attached. It's like he has no reason to withhold it.
"Bailey," I say, and this time, I smile back.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ain't Nobody Got Time Fo Dat

I'm sure a lot of people have heard of "Sweet Brown" and seen the video on YouTube or somewhere else along the internet. It's been redone to make it a funny video, but I can't help but think about this one phrase, "Ain't nobody got time fo dat," a little bit differently now.
The thing is, what do we have time for? Seriously, think about that for a second. (Did you think about it?) Think about the concept of time. Do you know exactly how much of it you have? I don't. I don't know at all. And I guess the reason I think of that phrase differently now is because when a person in your family dies before they've become old and grey, it makes you think about time differently. It makes you think about life in a way that you may not have thought of before. And I really don't want to waste mine.
How many things do we do, how many things do we spend so much time on, that when we get to the end of our won't even matter at all? What do our lives consist of? I wonder how many silly things we get so caught up in and so worked up over that don't even matter...
If I were to take a look at how much time I spend on useless things, I'd probably be pretty embarrassed. And I'd be sad that I'm not putting the time I've been given to good purpose. So I guess it's "time" to make some changes. Do things differently. Figure out what's really important. What's worth my time? What's worth your time?
So love your loved ones while you can. Laugh and have fun and be happy with those closest to you, and be kind to those who aren't. Because life is too short to waste time on regrets. Say what you want to say while you can still say it. If you love someone, tell them. If someone is important to you, make time for them. You never know how much you have left.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Feeling Unworthy

There are times when I feel like shick. Like I'm literally a piece of crap. That I can't do anything right, anything good. That there is nothing good in me at all.
There are times when I mess up so bad I just want to crawl into a dark space and roll up in a tiny little ball and stay there because I don't want to face anyone or anything.
And I wonder how God can bear to look at me when I can't bear to look at myself. I wonder how He can still have such amazing, unconditional, unending LOVE for me....for ME. It boggles my mind. I am a worthless piece of shick, and yet, for some unfathomable reason, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all that exists, loves and died
I don't deserve love. I don't deserve acceptance. I want those things, yes. I yearn for those things, but I'm unworthy of them. I've done despicable things. Things I'd be ashamed and embarrassed if anyone knew about them. Things I wish I could undo. Things I regret. And no matter what, those things will always be in my past. They will always be there trying to convince me that God doesn't love me; God can't possibly forgive me; I'm worthless. And though I know that's not true, all the lies come flying back at me when I make another mistake. Because I'm human, flawed, and I will make mistakes. I wish I didn't, and I regret them the minute after I've made them, but to think that we can go through life without making mistakes is unrealistic. I know that, but I still get extremely upset with myself when I mess up. Like tonight. Because I messed up. And I feel unworthy of any of the blessings I've been given, and unworthy of any future blessings. And I don't know how God is so merciful and gracious and forgiving. I don't understand it. But He is.
Even though I know God forgives and His mercies are new every morning, I still feel like dirt. Undeserving. Unlovable. Worthless. But I know that if I continue to believe those things, I'll be sucked into Satan's trap and he'd be having a blast with that. So I won't let him win. I'll pray. I'll get down on my knees and ask the God of the universe to please, in His mercy, wash me of the filthy dirt I'm covered in, to forgive my sinfulness and shape me into the person He wants me to be.
Though I'm feeling unworthy now, I won't stay in this place. I won't let my weak, sinfulness prosper. I won't let it win. I will keep fighting back. And I'll use this to learn by. I don't want to make the same mistake again. But even now, in this dark moment, God's love and grace shines through. Like a beacon. Calling me to Himself. He's calling to you, too. Will you go to Him?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That Offends Me!

I have a question for you, Reader: How many times (try to count) have you heard that? Five? Eight? Fifteen? Lost track?

Me? Yeah, I've lost track of how many times I've heard (or seen) someone say that something offends them. Have you ever said that about something? If so, let me ask you another question: What exactly do you wish to accomplish by stating that you're offended? I really would like to know. Or if you're not one to state how you feel about everything that ever comes up, have you ever thought about why people even bother to say they're offended? I mean, really, come on! What good does it do to notify everyone around you that something you disagree with upset you so much that you must make it known? What will it change?

You know what it will change?


Because honestly, no one really cares that you are offended. Because everyone has a right to their own beliefs, their own views, their own opinions. And no one will ever always agree with anyone else. Even your best friend, your twin brother, your husband/wife, is different from you. That's the great thing about humans: we are all different from one another. It's a beautiful thing, really. Think about it. No one in the world who has ever lived or ever will live is exactly the same as anyone else. Do you know how many people have walked this earth? Do you? No. You don't. No one does. It would be like trying to count the stars. Or the grains of sand on a beach. It's not possible. Everyone is an individual. Everyone is beautifully unique. And that's a wonderful thing. So of course there are people who will disagree with you. So what? What's the big deal? Why get offended?

Here's yet another question for you: Do you like being disrespected? Do you like it when people are rude to you? How about when someone calls you names? How about when you share (politely) your view on something you feel is important and someone says, "How dare you say that!? That is offensive! I am offended!"? You see? You don't even have to be rude to offend someone. Maybe they're just overly sensitive. Maybe they hate being disagreed with because they think they're right about everything. Or maybe it's some other reason that no one knows about nor will ever find out about. Either way, getting offended about something really doesn't do anything at all. It's not like the offender is going to change their mind or apologize for having a different view.

Just like you have a right to your own opinion, so everyone else has just as much a right to theirs. 

If you're reading this, then I"m going to make the assumption that you are a human being. I'm going to say that that is a pretty safe assumption. And as such, you probably like when others treat you with dignity and respect. Right? I know I appreciate those things. So then it would seem that other human beings like to be treated with dignity and respect also. Makes sense right? So I think we can conclude that just because someone shares their views, which may not line up with yours, does not mean they are being disrespectful, hateful, or offensive. Yes, some people are rude and name-callers and jerks. But that doesn't mean that we should be rude name-calling jerks back.

Well, that's my opinion. I hope that you enjoyed reading it. If it offends you, that wasn't my intent or purpose, so you have no reason to be offended, in my opinion. And also, I don't really care.

I hope you come back. Until then, Reader, I say: Courage to you, and I, as we sally forth!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Poem

With every breath I breathe
Every time my heart beats
And every thought that leads to you...
I don't know why it goes back through
Because the past is over and gone
But the track is stuck on this one song
And it's always at the part I hate the most.
I want to be able to forget
To stop and go on and leave that set
To welcome in the next scene that's waiting
Start anew and quit this hating
But it's just so hard when I feel alone
And I don't know how I'd let anyone know.
But can I really just keep going on this way?
I don't want bitterness to shape me
So won't You come and save me?
'Cause I don't know how to let this go
And I don't want these weeds to grow
To take up room where love should be
What will it take for me to see
This unforgiveness go and leave my heart?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are You For Real?

There are a lot of things that a lot of people don't want to talk about, or even hear/read about. I'm no genius on the complex workings of the human brain, but I think it has something to do with the fact that no one wants to rock the boat. No one wants to take a stand and discuss the deeper topics. Why do people react that way to certain things? Why do you or I react that way? 

Do you ever stop and think about the root of it all? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you're afraid? Now before you get defensive, stop and really think about it for a minute. Why else do we avoid certain topics at all cost? Why else do we shy away and try to change the subject, directing the conversation in a more comfortable direction? It's because you and I are afraid of standing up for what we believe and what we think is right. 

Okay, so that's it. That's what it is. We're afraid. But, then you might think, why are we afraid? What are we so scared of? Why is sharing our beliefs and opinions so scary? You know what? I think you already know the answer. You already know it, you just don't want to face it. The answer is this: you're worried about what other people will think of you! *Gasp* Yes, I said it! But it's true, isn't it? Everyone is so worried about what everyone else thinks of them that no one wants to truly be who they are. We all spend so much time trying to "fit in" that we don't even know ourselves anymore. And that's a real tragedy. 

 When you're in a group with your friends and a controversial topic comes up, what do you say when someone asks for your view on the subject? You freak out inside and start sweating and you get nervous and instead of stating how you really feel, you just go along with everyone else and agree, even though you don't. Am I right? Of course, there are those few people who are bold and honest with others about where they stand. And maybe that's you. If so, that's great! Good for you. But for the vast majority, we're worried that people won't like us anymore and won't want to be our friends if we don't agree with them and try to be exactly the way they are.

Now you might be thinking, 'Alright, so we've gotten to the bottom of things. Great. So now what?' Well, my friend, that is an excellent question! The hard truth is, if the people you call your friends genuinely care about you and like you for who you are as an individual, they will like you just as much when you stop trying to be like them and embrace your true self. And the thing is, if they don't, then you are much better off without them. You weren't meant to be a cheap copy of someone else. You were meant to be an original. Aren't originals worth way more than a replica? This isn't a masquerade! This is YOUR life. If you like something, wear it. If you have a certain view on a tough topic, share it! Find out what you love and do it! You've only got one shot at life, don't waste it by just being another face in the crowd. Be who you are, and be proud of it.

Courage to you, and I, as we sally forth! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Brutally Honest?

Have you ever wondered what the point is? Ever wondered why you keep repeating the same thing day after day, month after month, and year after year? Have you ever felt like you were just wasting time, like your very life was wasting away? If not, that's great. It must be only me. But I doubt it.

You see, I'm going to be extremely honest here; I feel like my life is going nowhere. I feel like there's no point, no purpose to my existence. I know that's not true, of course, but right now, that's the way I feel. And the thing is, I don't know what to do about it. I mean, I've prayed, that's obviously the first thing to do when I start to feel hopeless and depressed. And it's not that I expect God to answer me right away or that the solution will come down from heaven and slap me in the face....but, I would like something. Anything.

Honestly though, I haven't really heard much from God lately. I haven't heard Him, haven't felt Him, haven't seen Him... Oh yeah, that's right. No one's seen Him. Never mind. But it's a little...okay, a lot...discouraging when I have no directions. I feel like I'm wandering around lost, not knowing which way I should go, what I'm supposed to be doing. I can't begin to count how many times I've prayed for guidance and direction. And you know what? Still nothing. Nada.

So what do I do? I can't keep on wandering around. I can't become depressed. Again. I can't lose hope, for as it says in Romans 4:18 "Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping..." And I bet Abraham sometimes felt the same way I do. I bet he had days where he felt like giving up all hope because he was really old and I mean, things don't exactly work the same way when you get to be that old, know what I'm sayin'? So, God's promise that he would have a son wasn't looking very reassuring. But he had faith that God would make good on His promise. And at the ripe old age of 100 years, Abraham and his wife Sarah had a kid. A son. Just like God promised. Took a while, and some mistakes were made along the way on the part of Abraham and Sarah, but it happened.

So, I guess I answered my own question, in a way. What do I do? Be patient. Have faith. And even when everything in my life (and in my mind) tells me that there's no reason to hope, keep on hoping. Keep believing that God, in His timing, not mine, will make good on His promises. That yes, everything does happen for a reason, even if I don't understand it at the time. And though these things are sometimes hard to do, it will be worth it. To everything there is a season.

So my friends, courage to you, and I, as we sally forth. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Attempt

Well, hopefully this will all turn out alright. I really have no idea what I'm doing. But I thought, 'Hey, why not just put it out there and see what happens?' Besides, if it doesn't work out or if I don't like it, I can always delete it and try something else. So, with that being said, welcome to my blog. :)

I'm not a stranger to having no idea what I'm doing. That's actually pretty normal for me. The way life goes, I guess. At least it is in my case. But we learn as we go, so I'm hoping to figure out this blogging business as I do it. Not that my life is super exciting and I have lots of things to share. Quite the opposite, in fact. But since I have so much time on my hands for thinking and contemplating the meaning of life, (haha), I decided that maybe it would be cool to blog about it and share my thoughts with anyone who is interested enough to read them.

So, there's a little introduction for you. If anyone decides to read, hopefully you'll enjoy, and maybe even get a new perspective on something, whatever it may be that I choose to write about. Courage to you, and I, as we sally forth.